Prosecutor says infant found dead in swing 'died of diaper rash'
Warning: This story contains graphic and disturbing details.
A prosecutor in the trial of an Iowa father whose infant son was found dead wearing a maggot-infested diaper in a baby swing last year has told a jury the child "died of diaper rash," the Associated Press reports.
Police found the body of 4-month-old Sterling Koehn after the infant's parents, 21-year-old Cheyanne Harris and 29-year-old Zachary Koehn, called an ambulance to their Iowa apartment on August 30, 2017, to report that the child had allegedly died "just a few hours" after he was fed. Both Harris and Koehn were known to abuse drugs, including methamphetamines, the Des Moines Register reports.
First responders found the baby in a powered swing seat in a bedroom separate from where the couple and their other child slept. According to a criminal complaint, maggots were found on the child’s skin and in his diaper. A forensic entomologist found that the child "had not had a diaper change, bath, or been removed from the seat in over a week."
An autopsy by the State Medical Examiner’s Office also found that the emaciated infant measured well below the fifth percentile in size and weight for his age.
Both Harris and Koehn were charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death.
During Koehn's trial on Tuesday, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister told jurors that Sterling had been in the same diaper for nine to 14 days when his body was discovered, according to the Courier.
In his opening statements, McAllister said that the baby’s heavily soiled diaper had attracted bugs that had laid eggs, which hatched into maggots. The resulting diaper rash led to ruptured skin, which caused e. Coli bacteria to set in.
A coroner's report showed the baby died of malnutrition, dehydration and the infection.
"He died of diaper rash," McAllister told the court. "That’s right, diaper rash."
Koehn’s attorney, Les Blair III, denied the claims, arguing that the baby's death was a tragedy but not a crime.
McAllister asserted that Sterling's death was not a case of an inexperienced parent, noting that the couple's then 2-year-old daughter was also at the apartment at the time of the infant's death and that she appeared healthy and well-fed.
Toni Friedrich, a nurse and first responder in the case, testified that Koehn was emotionless when he led her to the hot room where the baby's body was. She also told the court that when she moved the boy's blanket, gnats flew out.
Koehn's trial is set to continue on Thursday.